What Am I Doing Here and Why Am I Doing It?

  • Post category:Art

This is the one-hundred and seventeenth post on A Bigger Camera and yesterday I was injected with the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Those two facts are intertwined.

On July 22nd I published my first entry to this blog, reusing an old web domain I had that was sitting idle. Art people might think the title of the blog refers to David Hockney, who a few years ago had a large show called “A Bigger Exhibition” and his book of similar name. But it really refers to that scene in the movie Jaws where the small-town sheriff, bored and frustrated by the gross and demeaning task of flinging disgusting chopped up fish parts–not the parts you’d normally eat–into the water to attract the killer shark they had been hunting. The shark obliges and reveals itself to be a much larger monster than expected and the sheriff, in shock, backs into the cabin, mumbling about needing a bigger boat.

You can interpret the title as a metaphor in any way you like.

I had extra time, with the COVID lockdowns precluding most of my travel hopes, and I thought a blog might be a good way to make use of the time to improve my writing, to refine it. And there is the first lesson of the experience: Everything here is a first draft. Given the needy hunger of the page, the pressure to post something three, four, five times a week–my web traffic stats and my Google ranking drop precipitously if I didn’t serve up new posts frequently–any hope of crafting much of anything gave way the content hamster wheel, finishing one thing only to need to find something fresh to post a day or two later.

Nine months now, and I can say I’ve greatly enjoyed it. Having to write on constant deadline may or may not have improved my writing skills but it did give me a chance to do more of it and to do it more quickly.

I’ve especially enjoyed the book reviews, which have proven to be especially popular with readers as well. When I was a teenager I did not have a car–our family was nowhere near rich enough where the parents could afford to buy cars for the kids, even cheap used cars–and so I would bus down to the downtown library in Akron, Ohio, which was well-stocked with photobooks. The local art museum specialized in photography and I suppose the library must have benefited from that as their photobook collection was extraordinary. I spent many afternoons sitting at one of the tables, a stack of large books in front of the odd, long-haired kid, going carefully page after page through everything, absorbing it all. My early education and love for photography were fortuitously fueled by this collection of treasures.

Nine months now, and yesterday I was vaccinated. In two weeks, after the vaccine has had time to work its wonders, I will be free.

I can’t write and make photographs at the same time. Oh sure, I can write and make photographs and they will be fine, and no one will know the difference, I suppose. But both writing and photography require, if you really want to excel, an entirety of absorption. You can be absorbed by the art you are creating and you can be entirely absorbed by the words you are writing, just not at the same time. And so, as I will soon be freer to do more I expect that I will be doing less. It’s already happening.

I’m working on several new photography projects, one has entered the shooting phase and I’m experimenting with and testing out different approaches. Any moment now I’ll find the way forward and I will go. I’m working on book two and book three, intending to have “dummies” of both finished in the near future so I can mail them out to publishers while I travel and work on other projects. I’m ramping up again, doing more, and as I do more I’m posting less. I see it happening already. I’m not staying up until near-dawn anymore, trying to get it written down before I lose the thread, I’m not waking up and swinging out of bed, the first sentence precariously perched in my mind.

So, this blog will be slowing down. At least for now. Maybe.

And so, as I edge toward the door, I thought maybe it was time to tell you why I was here in the first place.